The Five Companions
By Eddie Robson
Release date: December 2011
Special release X
“When we have defeated the Rutans, we will reduce the Daleks to a footnote in the pages of history.”
“Well, uh, good for you.”
Steven Taylor is lost. Once the leader of the Elders, he has found himself in a strange hostile world populated by Daleks. Before he can break into a run or plan a counter-attack, he is rescued by another former companion of the Doctor’s Ian Chesterton, now an old man. The two adventurers struggle to unravel the mystery of their predicament, but are unaware that other former time travelers are nearby. Sara Kingdom encounters Polly, whom she warily accepts as a friend rather than a foe, but both recognize that they are in dire peril when a dinosaur roars into view. In the heart of what appears to be a maze of death, Nyssa of Traken is urged to continue her work on reversing the process that brought the Daleks into this Death Zone, where the Daleks, Sontarans and other monsters battle each other for the entertainment of a mad Time Lord.
One of the weirdest and most fanciful of Big Finish’s releases, the Five Companions is set alongside the Five Doctors, the 20th anniversary special starring Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison (and featuring Richard Hurndall and archive footage of Tom Baker). During that story, the Fifth Doctor apparently took a mis-step while using the teleport device given to him by the Time Lord High Council. The miscalculation lands him in the middle of a nest of aliens who are fighting a never-ending war. Additionally, a few of his old traveling companions have also been pulled from their time streams and are stranded in a Death Zone made up of a Sargasso of spacecrafts.
The Five Companions is a bit of fun, really, and the only full cast audio outings for Purves, Marsh, Wills and Russell. There is a lot of fannish material thrown around as Steven recounts his life as leader of the Elders (where he was left at the close of the Savages) and Ian cheerfully talks about his life with Barbara and how she cajoled him out of retirement back into teaching (a reference to Ian’s aborted return in Mawdryn Undead when he was later replaced by the Brigadier). Even Polly gets to weave some post-Faceless Ones tales about her and Ben. Sara Kingdom only hints at her complicated existence when Steven exclaims that she should not be alive.
It’s more of a meeting of continuities than characters!
But thankfully the story is about more than just story lines and fictional continuations of these beloved characters and how their lives continued after they parted ways with the Doctor. It’s about the Doctor not appreciated his companions or acknowledging the impact they had on him at the time. It’s a celebration of the traveling companion, and it’s only right that some rather obscure choices were made in this respect. The eras of the first and second Doctor are still somewhat hazy to modern fans and even to some followers of the original program. Choosing Steven Taylor, Sarah Kingdom and Polly, three companions whose adventures are mostly lost to viewers, was a bold move.
The Doctor is quite playful in this story, dashing away from a platoon of Sontaran soldiers when they are distracted and later lashing together an escape ploy that could transport them all to safety or explode. This fits in perfectly with the modern dizzy Fifth Doctor portrayal that Davison has taken on in the Big Finish stories. He appears to be distracted much of the time, dangerously so, yet he always manages to save the day. He often congratulates himself on this skill as well.
The Five Companions is a touching story as each of the characters has a moment with the Doctor in which he or she comes to a realization about their time together. Polly discounts her contribution to the fight against monsters to making the tea, but the Doctor points out that it was Polly who faced the Cybermen at Smowcap base and challenged their lack of emotional range. The Doctor realizes that he never voiced his appreciation of her bravery… and seems rather sad and sincere. Steven seems to be on the verge of blaming the Doctor for deserting him on the planet of the Elders, but the Doctor insists that he knew Steven would make the best of it.
And even though Ian is a very old man, he has the courage of ten young men. Bemused, the Doctor realizes that Ian has faced more horrors than any of them and always came out on top. The brave and brilliant Nyssa shines as the voice of reason, even though Ian would rather charge headfirst into peril, and it is her ingenuity that saves the day in the end. Cold and cunning, Sara Kingdom takes down several foes, but is astonished when Polly uses her stiletto heeled shoe as a weapon against a Sontaran. Posh bird indeed!
A holiday present to the fans, the Five Companions is very ropy and the plot is so thin that it barely serves as the framework of a video game, but as a partner to the Five Doctors, it’s a lot of fun.
Released as a special CD or download, The Five Companions is only available to subscribers… so go to the site and subscribe today!